Houston, Texas - Jorge Costilla-Sanchez pleaded guilty to an international drug trafficking conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana into the United States.

Costilla-Sanchez, 48, was an active member of the “Cartel Del Golfo” (CDG or Gulf Cartel). CDG is a violent Mexican criminal organization engaged in the manufacture, distribution, and importation of ton quantities of cocaine and marijuana into the United States. In the late 1990s, the Gulf Cartel recruited an elite group of former Mexican military personnel to join their ranks as security and enforcers who became known as Los Zetas. The Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas operated under the name of “The Company.” Costilla-Sanchez became the leader of The Company for several years following the arrest of Osiel Cardenas in 2003 and before Costilla-Sanchez’s arrest in September 2012.

During his association with The Company, Costilla-Sanchez was responsible for overseeing all operations and providing leadership that resulted in the importation of thousands of kilograms of cocaine and marijuana into the United States. Under Costilla-Sanchez’s leadership, The Company controlled numerous plazas along the United States and Mexico border including Matamoros, Rio Bravo, Reynosa, Miguel Aleman and Nuevo Laredo. Costilla-Sanchez used these strategically important locations to distribute cocaine and marijuana into the United States and to return bulk U.S. currency to himself and other members of CDG in Mexico.

During the course of his involvement in the conspiracy, law enforcement in Mexico and Panama seized ton quantities of cocaine that were intended for Costilla-Sanchez and other members of CDG to distribute in Mexico and the United States. Specifically, on Oct. 5, 2007, Mexican law enforcement seized 11,700 kilograms of cocaine from a warehouse in Tampico, Mexico, and on Nov. 30, 2007, the Panamanian National Police seized approximately 2,400 kilograms of cocaine in Colon, Panama.

The Defendant oversaw a vast network of other individuals including local plaza bosses, drug couriers, security personnel, scouts, hitmen and others to facilitate The Company’s drug trafficking operations.  In the performance of his duties for The Company, the Defendant and others under his charge possessed and used dangerous weapons, including firearms. Further, the Defendant organized, directed, and carried out numerous acts of violence against rival drug trafficking groups, Mexican law enforcement and others who The Company perceived as threats to their drug trafficking activities.

During his guilty plea today, Costilla-Sanchez acknowledged his participation in a conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute over 450 kilograms of cocaine and over 90,000 kilograms of marijuana.

Costilla-Sanchez’s sentencing has been set for April 14, 2020, before U.S. District Judge Fernando Rodriguez Jr. At that time Costilla-Sanchez faces a minimum of 10 years and up to life in federal prison. 

The Drug Enforcement Administration - Houston Field Division conducted the investigation.    

Trial Attorneys Cole Radovich and Kirk Handrich of the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section prosecuted this case, with significant assistance provided by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jody Young of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas and the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs and Office of Enforcement Operations.